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Iron ore lifeline in jeopardy
- Bill row threatens Rs 145cr road project

Ranchi, Dec. 17: Construction of the Haatgamharia-Baraiburu road, hyped as the arterial iron ore transportation route in the state, has hit a roadblock.

Tussle between the con- sultant and construction companies in West Singhbhum is believed to have pressed the pause button on the crores-worth project. And the wait for its completion may now extend well beyond the deadline.

Work on the 45km stretch, for which Rs 145 crore has been earmarked, was supposed to end before March 2009, but now the state road construction department said it apprehended an inordinate delay in the project.

Construction companies have cited bills of over Rs 40 crore, pending for three months, as the unexpected hiccup in the ambitious plan.

“We have stalled work since the consultant company is not clearing bills over Rs 40 crore. Their indifferent attitude will delay the project,” said Deepak Kumar, the liaison officer of Ramkripal Singh Construction Private Limited, the company executing the project in a joint venture with Hyderabad-based builders Nagarjuna Construction Company Limited.

Ramkripal Singh Construction was considered the favourite of former chief minister Madhu Koda. During his regime, the company was awarded major work contracts for roads and buildings worth over Rs 500 crore. Besides the Haatgamharia-Baraiburu project, the company is executing projects at Birsa Munda stadium, the Ranchi district collectorate and the Raj Bhavan-Bariatu link.

The consultant in question, Allahabad-based Quest Engineers and Consultants Private Limited, has a different story to tell. “We cannot compromise on quality beyond a certain limit. During Koda’s tenure we had objected twice to the poor execution of the project. But after interference from his office, we had to let the project go on. How can we pass bills of the contractor when no quality report has been presented? We have apprehensions about the quality of at least three minor bridges,” said Manoj Pandey, the local representative of the consultant company.

Nagarjuna Construction’s lack of active participation has also peeved the consultant. Pandey said that Ramkripal Singh Construction Private Limited has no technical expertise in executing such a big project. “When 20 site engineers are required, they employ only two,” he claimed.

Ravindra Nath Gorai, the accounts officer at the Manoharpur division of the road construction department, pointed out that the officials of Nagarjuna show up only when payment is due.

Of the Rs 145 crore, the construction companies have been paid about Rs 70 crore, Gorai claimed. About Rs 14 crore was given in 2006-07. Of the Rs 57.92 crore earmarked for 2008-09, Rs 20 crore has already been paid.

The rest of the Rs 70 crore was paid in 2007-08.

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